Mirziyoyev seeks to reform Uzbekistan's powerful intelligence agency
TASHKENT -- Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has called for a law to overhaul the National Security Service (SNB), the country's national intelligence agency.
In a four-hour speech to lawmakers, diplomats and journalists on December 22, Mirziyoyev said the security service was still working based on a government mandate passed 26 years ago.
"We need to reform this structure. The [National Security Service] should be on guard for our external and internal security," Mirziyoyev said, according to AFP.
The SNB, which inherited the mantle of the KGB after Uzbekistan's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, is headed by Rustam Inoyatov, 73, who has been in place since 1995.
Inoyatov was widely viewed as one of the most powerful people in the country at the time of long-reigning president Islam Karimov's death last year.
Earlier this year, Mirziyoyev appointed allies to head the Interior and Defence ministries in moves seen as trimming the influence of the SNB led by Inoyatov. The Interior Ministry's mandate was also expanded, taking on a unit formerly part of the SNB.
Rolling back authoritarianism
Mirziyoyev, 60, who served as Karimov's prime minister for 13 years, emerged as Uzbekistan's new leader after Karimov died in September 2016. He quickly began rolling back some of his predecessor's most stringent authoritarian policies.
"Such a statement from the president about the ineffectiveness of the National Security Service ... was simply unfathomable in Uzbekistan in previous years," Tashkent-based political analyst Valerii Khan told Caravanserai.
"Among the public it had the effect of an exploding bomb," he said.
In the same speech, Mirziyoyev mentioned the inefficiency of the Ministry of Finance.
"A few days later, on December 27, more than 500 people were fired from the ministry," Khan said. "It's possible that the National Security Service and Interior Ministry are also anticipating sweeping purges."
Those two agencies have "bloated staffs and opaque powers", said Khan. "Their harsh ways aroused public dissatisfaction."
The move could be aimed at the broader goal of shifting power toward legislators, Umid Asatullayev, a political analyst from Tashkent, told Caravanserai.
"Shavkat Mirzoyoyev is trying to decentralise power in Uzbekistan and bring in new, modern elites," he said. "His hopes are separate from those of Islam Karimov's [allies], and he is taking [them] out of the game."
It is no accident that Mirzoyoyev gave his speech in front of the nation's parliament -- setting him apart from his predecessor, who never used to address lawmakers, Asatullayev said.
"Mirziyoyev is demonstrating the shift in power centres, the strengthening of the role of political parties," he said.
On December 24 in Tashkent, for the first time in history, local city council elections took place.
"In the future, we can expect other responsibilities as well to be turned over from the executive branch to the legislative branch," Asatullayev said.
[Maksim Yeniseyev from Tashkent contributed to this report.]